Wildlife Conservation Society

Sea Lion Double Trouble at WCS’s Bronx Zoo

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The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo is excited to announce the addition of two California Sea Lion pups.

The pups were born in June to different mothers. The pup born to mother, Indy, has been identified as a male. Keepers have not yet been able to determine the sex of the other pup, born to Margaretta. Both have yet to receive their names.

Clyde is the sire of both pups. He is one of two adult bulls that came to WCS’s Queens Zoo in 2013 from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of a local wildlife management project in Bonneville, Ore. These are his first offspring since arriving in New York.

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The California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) is a coastal eared seal native to western North America. It is one of five species of Sea Lion. Its natural habitat ranges from southeast Alaska to central Mexico, including the Gulf of California.

They are mainly found on sandy or rocky beaches, but they also frequent manmade environments, such as marinas and wharves. Sea Lions feed on a number of species of fish and squid, and are preyed on by Orcas and White Sharks.

California Sea Lions have a polygamous breeding pattern. From May to August, males establish territories and try to attract females with which to mate. Females are free to move in between territories, and are not coerced by males. Mothers nurse their pups in between foraging trips.

Sea Lions communicate with numerous vocalizations, notably with barks and mother-pup contact calls. Outside of their breeding season, Sea Lions spend much of their time at sea, but they come to shore to molt.

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First Little Blue Penguin Hatches at WCS’s Bronx Zoo

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The colony of Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) that debuted in 2015, as a new species at WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) Bronx Zoo, has successfully produced a chick that is now on exhibit with the rest of the colony.

The chick hatched May 10, and this is the first time this species has bred at the Bronx Zoo, in the zoo’s 120-plus year history.

Known for their small size and characteristic bluish hue, Little Penguins are also known as Blue Penguins, Little Blue Penguins, and Fairy Penguins. Adults are only about 13 inches tall and weigh around 2 to 3 pounds. They are the smallest of the 18 penguin species and native to coastal southern Australia and New Zealand.

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4_Julie Larsen Maher_7335_Little Penguin Chick_ABH_BZ_07 25 16Photo Credits: Julie Larsen Maher / WCS


Little Penguins lay their eggs in burrows dug in sand, natural cavities, or under thick vegetation. They may even nest under man-made structures. Both parents care for and incubate the egg. Newly hatched chicks weigh just 25g. The chicks lose their downy plumage at about 50 days of age when it is replaced with waterproof feathers.

With the exception of the new chick, all of the birds in the Bronx Zoo colony were hatched at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia and brought to the Bronx Zoo as part of a breeding program. Approximately 15 penguins a year hatch at Taronga, making it the most successful Little Penguin breeding program in the world. The Bronx Zoo penguins will help ensure continued genetic diversity in the Little Penguin populations in the U.S.

The species occurs in temperate marine waters and feeds on fish, cephalopods and crustaceans. They nest, colonially, in burrows on sand dunes or rocky beach areas. Like other penguin species, they use a wide range of vocalizations to communicate with each other. In the wild, their populations are threatened by climate change and human activities.

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Turkmenian Flare-horned Markhor at WCS’s Bronx Zoo

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A herd of Turkmenian Flare-horned Markhor (Capra falconeri hepterni) roams the rocky terrain in their expansive habitat along the Wild Asia Monorail at WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) Bronx Zoo.

The herd consists of eleven males (easily identified by their huge spiraled horns and distinct coats), ten females (which are smaller than the males and have much shorter horns), and their offspring, which includes eight kids born this year.

The Markhor is a unique species of goat found in the mountains of Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. They inhabit upper elevations, with vegetation as their food source. They are skilled climbers and will scale steep rocky terrain to escape predators such as snow leopards and wolves.

The Bronx Zoo’s Markhor live with a herd of Himalayan Tahr, another species of Asiatic mountain goat found in areas of China, Tibet, Nepal, and northern India.

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Wild Markhor are threatened by human activity in the ranges where they live. Their impressive twisted horns and thick fur make them a target for trophy hunters and poachers. They are also susceptible to habitat loss from expansion of land used for domestic livestock, and from disease spread from the growing livestock population.

With support from US Ambassador Fund, Columbus Zoo Conservation Fund, and other supporters, WCS has been working to save wild Markhor in the mountains of northern Pakistan since 1997. Now working with 65 communities, WCS has seen a 70 percent increase in Markhor populations in the last decade, with estimates placed at 1,700 wild Markhor in this landscape—a significant proportion of the global population of this endangered mountain goat.

The WCS Pakistan Program’s recovery of Markhor in Pakistan has helped lead to the recent, nearly unprecedented two-stage down-listing of Markhor by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from an “Endangered” classification, passing the status of “Vulnerable”, to now being known as “Near Threatened”.

More great pics, below the fold!

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Take a Peek at Bronx Zoo's Otter Pup

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An Asian Small-clawed Otter pup made its public debut at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo in late April.

Born this spring, the pup is already dipping its toes in the family’s watery exhibit.

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Julie Larsen Maher_5826_Asian Small-clawed Otter_JUN_BZ_04 06 16_hrPhoto Credit:  Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
Like all Otters, the species is well adapted for a semi-aquatic life. Their elongated bodies and webbed feet make it easy for them to propel through the water. They have dexterous paws that aid in finding and consuming food, and their fur is extremely dense and waterproof for temperature regulation.

Asian Small-clawed Otters have a vast but shrinking Southeast Asian range that spans from India to the Philippines, Taiwan, and parts of southern China. The species is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is threatened by habitat loss and exploitation.


Red Panda Twins Debut at Prospect Park Zoo

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Two Red Panda cubs, one male and one female, were born at the WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) Prospect Park Zoo this summer and have made their public debut.

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 WCS has a successful history breeding Red Pandas at the Bronx, Central Park, and Prospect Park Zoos as part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums designed to enhance the genetic viability and demographic stability of animal populations in accredited zoos.

The Red Pandas at the Prospect Park Zoo, in Brooklyn NY, are a subspecies from the eastern portion of the Himalayas, known as Styan’s Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens styani). Their native habitat is, more specifically, southern China and northern Burma. The subspecies at the Bronx Zoo and Central Park Zoo---Western Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens fulgens)---is found in the western part of their Himalayan range, particularly Nepal, Assam, Sikkim, and Bhutan.

Styan’s Red Panda has been distinguished in some studies as having a longer winter coat, bigger skull, more strongly curved forehead, and darker coloring than the Western Red Panda.

Female Red Pandas are only fertile for just one day a year and can delay implantation until conditions are favorable. They give birth to between one and four young at a time, and the cubs are born with pale fluffy fur, which becomes coarser and darkens to the distinctive red coloration of the adults over the first three months. The cubs reach adulthood at around 18 months.

Red Pandas have an adaptation on their wrists that acts much like a thumb and enables them to grasp food items like bamboo as well as tree branches.

Red Pandas are listed as “Endangered” by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss caused by deforestation for timber, fuel and agricultural use. Despite international efforts, their population in the wild has plausibly declined by 50% over the last three generations (about 18 years).

WCS works in China and Myanmar to help save Red Pandas and other Asian wildlife.

Queens Zoo Helps Save New England Cottontail

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WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation SocietyQueens Zoo has successfully bred rare New England Cottontail Rabbits for introduction to their native New England states.

The Queens Zoo started breeding New England Cottontails, this year, as part of a collaborative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), various state agencies in NY and New England, universities, public and private landowners, other conservation NGOs, and the Roger Williams Park Zoo (Providence, R.I.), in an effort to boost the wild population. 

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the New England Cottontail as “Vulnerable”. The rabbit was recently reviewed for listing as “threatened” or “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act. The USFWS found that federal protection was unnecessary, as current conservation efforts have shown productive results, and ongoing plans are in place to recover the species. 

New England Cottontails have light brown coats and look strikingly similar to the more populous Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, which is designated “Least Concern” by the IUCN. The Eastern Cottontail is not native and was introduced to the region in the early 1900s, primarily for hunting purposes. DNA analysis is the most reliable way to distinguish between the two species.

The Queens Zoo’s breeding program takes place in an off-exhibit space, and the rabbits are not on exhibit for public viewing. Special habitats and conditions have to be created to encourage courtship and breeding. The adult males and females are initially kept in their own enclosures, and then introduced in specially designed rabbit pens, where they get to know each other and hopefully reproduce. These pens have hay beds, nest boxes, and other features so they can pair up or separate much as they would in the wild. After a week of living together, the rabbits are separated, and each one goes back to its own enclosure. These environmental variations are important to the regular reproductive cycle of the species.

This season, 11 young rabbits (known as kits) were born at the Queens Zoo and sent to New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Once there, biologists from the partnering agencies first introduced them to a one acre outdoor acclimation pen and fitted them with transmitters to track the migration patterns of the rabbits. When ready, they were fully released into suitable forest and thicket-lined habitats. Overall, between all the partnering organizations, 41 rabbits were released this year.

“The New England Cottontail is an example of a species that can be saved if enough people and organizations come together to help protect it,” said Scott Silver, Director and Curator of the WCS Queens Zoo. “We’re proud to be part of this amazing coalition of agencies and the Roger Williams Park Zoo, dedicated to conserving this ecologically important animal.”

Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS Zoos and Aquarium, said, “In only a few short months, the Queens Zoo’s new New England Cottontail breeding program has proven successful. The WCS zoos and aquarium inspire people to value nature when they visit our facilities, but we also have a commitment to conservation through our extensive on-site breeding programs for both local and global species that are experiencing challenges in the wild.”

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It's Playtime! Two Baby Gorillas Debut at Bronx Zoo

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Two infant Western Lowland Gorillas are making their public debut at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo. This is the second pair of Gorillas born at the Bronx Zoo in just over a year.  
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The Bronx Zoo has a successful history breeding Gorillas as part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. These are the 16th and 17th Gorillas born at Congo Gorilla Forest; there have been 52 Gorillas born at the Bronx Zoo since 1972.

Layla (16 years old) gave birth on January 17, and Kumi (also 16 years old) had her baby on January 19. Ernie (32 years old) is the father of both babies. The gender of the infants is not yet known.  The babies join 17 other Gorlllas at the zoo.  

Gorillas are the world’s largest primates. Weighing only about 4 to 5 pounds at birth, adult males weigh between 350-450 pounds and when standing upright can be up to six feet tall. Adult females weigh between 150-250 pounds and are up to four feet tall. 

Western lowland Gorillas are designated as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their natural range spans tropical and subtropical forests in equatorial Africa. WCS works throughout Central Africa to protect Gorillas from habitat loss and illegal hunting.

Orphaned Tigers Cubs Rescued in Russian Wilderness


Three orphaned Siberian Tiger cubs, alone in the snowy Russian Far East, were rescued from certain death last fall by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which operates the Bronx Zoo.  The capture and rehabilitation of the cubs – who are part of a rapidly vanishing species – illustrate the challenges of saving Tigers, one animal at a time.  Fewer than 500 Siberian Tigers, which are the largest of all Tiger subspecies, survive in the wild, including 330-390 adults.  Worldwide, only about 3,200 Tigers exist in the wild, and they face poaching, a reduction in prey species, and habitat loss.


Photo Credits:  Dale Miquelle © WCS

WCS assisted Russian wildlife officials by deploying two of their staff members, brothers Kolya and Sasha Rybin, who are expert Tiger trackers. The cubs were seen stalking a dog near a small village, so the team knew where to start.  Fresh tracks led the team to the forest, where they found the cubs staring curiously at them from the middle of a road.  Moments later, the cubs vanished into the forest, but the team was able to capture the smallest cub, which weighed only 35 pounds.  The cubs were determined to be about four months old.

Researchers believe that the cubs’ mother was likely killed by poachers.  A 20-year WCS project determined that poaching accounts for nearly 75% of adult Tiger deaths.  Bones and body parts from a single adult Tiger can fetch up to $5,000 for the poacher alone, and once processed for use in traditional Asian medicine, far more.  Female Tigers with cubs seem to be the most vulnerable, because they will defend their cubs rather than flee.

These three cubs probably remained in the spot where their mother was killed, leaving only when they became too hungry to wait any longer.

The team was unable to capture the two remaining cubs for several days.  One was followed for 13 kilometers, yet managed to avoid capture until it ventured onto a military base.

The third cub eluded the team for two more days.  Weak and struggling to walk in the deep snow, the dehydrated animal was captured, warmed, and given fluids and food before making the four-hour trip to the rehabilitation center to meet his siblings.

Over the next seven to eight months, the Tiger cubs will have very limited interactions with people to avoid associating humans with food.  This spring, small prey will be introduced so that the cubs can learn to hunt. They will eventually be released in a remote part of Siberia – three living, breathing symbols of hope for this imperiled species.

Little Lemurs Debut at the Bronx Zoo

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The Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo recently welcomed two baby lemurs, a Conquerel's Sifaka and a Collared Lemur. 

Both babies will spend their next few weeks clinging firmly to mom's back. Coquerel’s Sifakas spend most of their time in trees and leap effortlessly, launching themselves vertically with their strong legs. Like most species of lemurs, the females are dominant, claiming the choicest food and the best sleeping and sunning spots.

Collared lemurs use their long tails to balance when leaping through the forest canopy. Collared Lemurs live in groups of males and females but are not matriarchal like the Sifaka and many other lemurs.

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Photo Credits: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Video Credits: Luke Groskin © WCS

New Pictures, New Video! Bronx Zoo Giraffe Calf Update

The Giraffe calf born in March at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo has made her debut on the African Plains, and she's one busy girl. See her nuzzle with mom, romp around her exhibit, and interact with a surprise visitor—an interloping butterfly. You can see earlier pictures of this tall baby from our ZooBorns article on March 23.

The calf has not yet been named. The Bronx Zoo names all of its giraffes in memory of Mr. and Mrs. James Carter, benefactors for the Carter Giraffe Building.

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Photo credits: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS